Nobody can argue there's something distinctly odd about New Orleans, Louisiana. There's Mardi Gras, the yearly bacchanal possibly unrivaled around the world, where girls gone wild get captured on video in many mammary-revealing moments. There's frightening foodie and short-lived sitcom star Emeril Lagasse. But New Orleans also is a city that buries its dead above ground; embraces Anne Rice, an author who writes almost constantly about vampires and sort of looks like one; and makes death a celebration, parading its deceased (in caskets, thankfully) through the streets with a brass band following jovially behind, providing a soundtrack
Another weekly Crescent City tradition perhaps less known to outsiders is social aid and pleasure clubs. Formed in the late 1780s in the black communities, the sordid-sounding organizations actually offered financial assistance for members' health care or funerals. They'd often sponsor parades to encourage new membership. These days the aid may have diminished but more than 40 clubs still exist, and the joyful processions continue. From late August to the middle of April almost every Sunday, brass bands lead funseekers in "second-line" parades, marching for miles through the area's black neighborhoods. Among the ensembles who regularly participate: the Li'l Rascals, the New Birth, the Hot 8, and the Rebirth Brass Band.
This weekend the nineteen-year-old Rebirth Brass Band travels way south to Miami for what is guaranteed to be an energetic outdoor concert and dance fest at an unlikely venue, the Bakehouse Art Complex. The nine-piece group, founded by brothers Philip (tuba) and Keith Frazier (bass drum), doesn't promise it'll play a nine-hour show, the length of second-line parades of the past. But don't be surprised if the group easily settles into a four-hour gig, about the duration of present parades. The Rebirth's motto is said to be: "We come to party." And they most certainly mean it.
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